“You’re up early,” Casimir noted as Odette entered the dining room. He stood up and waited for her to move to her chair.
“I’d prefer to get the whole ‘one meal a day’ over with,” Odette snapped back. “Seems like breakfast is the way to go.”
“Cheerful as always,” he muttered in response.
Odette jutted her chin out. “Why are you standing?” She looked behind her before turning in a full circle. “Are we awaiting an army general?”
“It’s called chivalry.” Casimir frowned. “Are you unfamiliar with the concept?”
“No,” Odette mocked. “I’m just unfamiliar with you and chivalry put together, that’s all.”
Casimir concealed an amused smile as he sat back down. “You know the longer you stand there, the longer this meal is going to be.”
Odette pursed her lips and stomped to the chair on the opposite side of the table before staring at it pitifully.
“Something the matter?” Casimir asked.
Odette tilted her head to one side and then the other. “How am I supposed to sit? The chair isn’t going to pull itself out.”
Casimir grunted and scraped his chair back. Odette tapped an impatient foot on the floor as he meandered towards her. Casimir placed a gloved hand on the top of the chair and pulled it out as slowly as possible, letting the sickening screech of wood on wood fill the air. As soon as Odette had enough room, she scrambled into the seat and waved Casimir off.
“Good enough!” She practically shouted.
From inside the kitchen, Cherie chuckled. She could see the two arguing through a crack in the kitchen door, and their sprightly banter never seemed to cease.
“She’s got a bite to her,” Cherie decided. “I like it.”
“You’ve always liked spice,” Ming Lee pointed out as she flipped the eggs in the pan.
“I personally think she’s a little dear,” Maude said wistfully. “So full of that youthful optimism.”
“I don’t think optimism is the word for it,” Ming snorted.
“Well I don’t blame her,” Cherie cut in. “The Master is heinously hard to deal with. If I have to bake any more bread because the crust isn’t just right, I’ll smack that boy upside the head.”
“I don’t think Jean-Luc would appreciate that,” Ming offered.
“I don’t care!” Cherie said indignantly. “He’ll get his bread the way I bake it, and no other way. Otherwise he can come in here and cook for himself.”
“Alright,” Maude said, placing a placating hand on Cherie’s shoulder. “Let’s not get carried away.”
Back in the dining room, Odette and Casimir ate their breakfast in awkward silence once again.
Eventually, Odette let her curiosity get the best of her. “Why do you wear gloves and a mask?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not worried,” Odette pointed out. “Just curious. There’s no way it’s just a fashion statement.”
“And what if it is?” Casimir asked. “Maybe I like wearing it.”
“Oh please,” Odette scoffed. “I don’t think chat noir is anyone’s style of choice.”
“You’re mistaken. It is my style of choice. Black is very befitting in such a place.” Casimir pointed at Odette’s black ensemble. “It seems as if you agree.”
Odette rolled her eyes and stabbed a piece of spinach frittata with her fork.
“Score one for the Master,” Ming whispered from inside the kitchen.
Casimir cleared his throat awkwardly. “Is there anything you’d like to do today?”
Odette stifled a laugh. “I’d like to leave, really. That’s about it.”
Casimir sighed and rubbed a hand over his forehead to ward off an oncoming headache. She was difficult, much more difficult than her meek father would have been.
“This has been a wonderful meal, but I must be going.” Odette announced. “I have a busy day of being a prisoner.”
Before Casimir could stand up, Odette fled the room.
“Ouch,” Cherie muttered to Maude.
“This is a tragedy that has shaken our town to the very core!” Saren Ravenhart bellowed from inside the town hall. All of the villagers had gathered to hear his proclamation, for it was not only mandatory, but oftentimes entertaining.
And no one wanted to be on Mayor Ravenhart’s bad side.
“Odette Champagne, shredded to death by the wolves that run rampant in the forest!”
The crowd gasped as Saren described in vivid, horrific detail the death of young Odette.
“And Odette is not the first victim of these beasts! My own sister, my dear Serena, met that same fate years ago! It is time we stop sleeping on this issue, lest we lose another one of our beloved town members!”
In the back of the hall, Elliott placed his head in his hands, horrified by the imagery. He couldn’t protect his own daughter, the only thing he had cared about for years.
“What do we do?” Missy asked as she trembled in the corner. Her two sisters wrapped their slender arms around her and wailed. “What if they come for us?” She shrieked.
“I’d pay them to,” Ian muttered.
Catherine turned back to her husband and swatted him on the chest.
“What?” He whispered. “We were all thinking it.”
Jackie stood up and stormed to the front of the hall. “What proof do you have?”
Jackie had found herself more upset over Odette’s death than she would have liked. It made no sense – not while Odette had the ring. Not to mention the visions, the prophecies. Jackie narrowed her eyes at the slimy man in front of her.
“We have this,” Saren said, lifting up a small piece of paper.
From the back, Elliott gasped. It was the picture of Odette as a baby with her mother, the one that Odette had kept in her locket for years.
“Look upon the picture,” Saren called out, holding the small piece of picture paper up higher. “See the blood on it, the animalistic scratches! Wolves, nothing else!”
“No!” Elliott cried.
Saren whispered into Emiliano’s ear, and he nodded in response.
“Mr Champagne, this must be hard for you,” Saren said solemnly. “So we’re going to escort you out for now.”
“What? No! I need to help, I need-”
Emiliano stood up and swiftly made his way to the back of the town hall. He gripped Elliott’s arm so hard that the elderly man screeched. Suddenly, his eyes glazed over.
“Beast!” Elliott bellowed as Emiliano ripped him from the room.
Saren’s eyes went wide with surprise as he watched the ordeal. It was something he wasn’t expecting, that was certain. He looked up at the wall and looked at the portrait of his dear sister, gone for so many years. Serena had been the town treasure, a bubbling fountain of happiness during the dreary days.
Yet she died as a masked man looked on in amusement.
“What on earth is that?” Jacqueline asked as she entered the loft space of Odette’s bedroom.
Odette had spent the day lazing around, exploring her room and no where else. Now, she was upstairs, leaning back and examining the painting she had finished. Brown and green paint was splatter all over her forehead and hands, creating a strange forest-fairy look.
“It’s a…llama.” Odette said, tilting her head to one side. “If you look at it from this angle, anyways.”
“It kind of looks like a potato with legs,” Jacqueline pointed out.
At this, Odette burst out laughing, doubling over as she clutched her stomach. “You’re right – it’s awful!”
After they had finished laughing and Jacqueline wiped tears off of her face, Odette managed to ask why she had came.
“I thought you might be hungry,” Jacqueline explained. “So I wanted to see if you want me to bring you dinner in here.”
Odette looked around and frowned. She had been cooped up all day, and maybe a walk through the castle would be good for her.
“I’ll go down to the kitchen myself,” Odette finally decided.
Jacqueline shrugged. “I’ll lay out your nightgown for when you come back.”
As soon as Odette left her room, she found Skyler waiting on a bench in the hallway. He looked up hopefully for a moment and then seemed to deflate.
“Oh, hi Odette,” he said, attempting to smile. It turned out to be more of a grimace.
“You could look a little bit more enthused to see me,” she chuckled as she took a seat beside him. “What are you doing out here?”
Skyler tapped a finger on the armrest and looked at his feet.
“Come on!” Odette smiled, nudging him with her shoulder. “You can tell me.”
“I was waiting for Jacqueline,” he said after a long pause.
“I was just going to ask her if she’d like to spend some time together.”
Odette gasped and clapped her hands together in excitement. “You like her, don’t you?”
A pink blush crept up on Skyler’s face as he nodded.
“Well, what are you waiting for? She’s in my room, go ask her!”
“I can’t,” Skyler said miserably.
“But you can wait outside for her?”
“I just wanted to see her,” he mumbled.
Odette awwed and placed a hand over her heart as Skyler rubbed his eyes. “Can I help you?” She eventually asked.
“I don’t see how you can. She’s turned me down at every opportunity.” Skyler said, placing his head in his hands as he leaned forward.
Odette placed a hand on his back. “I have an idea.”
Skyler looked at her helplessly.
“Is there a place to dance around here?”
“The rooftop, but you have to go through the master’s quarters to get there.”
Skyler pointed over to an archway on the other side of the hallway. “There’s a small recreational room there. If you move the furniture there might be enough space.”
“That’s perfect! Come help me move it, then I’ll go get Jacqueline ready.”
After the two had lifted heavy chairs and shoved aside game tables, the room seemed slightly bigger. It wasn’t enough room for a proper waltz or foxtrot, but enough for Jacqueline to learn the basics of dance. Odette assumed the woman had little time for fun, and perhaps it was time that changed.
“Change of plans!” Odette called as she entered her room. Jacqueline looked up from where she was turning down the bed.
“Let’s get all dolled up!” Odette said as she practically floated to the closet. “There are so many beautiful gowns in here, and I can’t possibly wear them all.”
“Oh no, I’m not supposed-”
“Hush!” Odette said as she pulled out two matching dresses. “We can do each other’s makeup and hair!”
Though Jacqueline was more than reluctant at first, Odette’s unusual enthusiasm seeped into her. The two ladies spent the next hour applying glittery shadow and eyeliner to each other, laughing when they messed up. Odette was reminded of the sleepovers she would read about in books, where best friends would just have fun and forget about all their problems. It seemed to work well, for by the end of it all, both Odette and Jacqueline were in high spirits.
“It’s so beautiful,” Jacqueline said softly as she twirled. “I wish we could really look at ourselves.”
“Why are the mirrors covered up?” Odette asked as she fixed the other earring on Jacqueline’s ear.
The girl shrugged in response. “No one really knows. They’ve been like this for as long as I can remember.”
“Well, we’ll just have to make the best of it.” Odette said firmly. “Now come on, let’s go dancing!”
Jacqueline sputtered as Odette pulled her out of the room and down the hallway.
“Oh, Skyler!” Odette said with the best surprised voice she could muster when they entered the room. “We were just about to dance. Would you play some music for us?”
Skyler nodded and bowed deeply. “Of course, my ladies.”
Odette began to teach Jacqueline some basic dance moves for the next many songs. For the first time, Odette saw Jacqueline genuinely smile as she twirled and let her pink dress settle around her.
“Do you know how to waltz?” Odette finally asked.
Jacqueline shook her head and frowned. “No, but I’ve always wanted to learn.”
“So why not now? Skyler, come here and be her partner so I can instruct you both.”
Jacqueline didn’t protest as Skyler placed a hand on her waist and took her hand in his other. In fact, Odette suppressed a giddy laugh as both of them began to blush. They looked years younger, two children pretending to be royalty in a cardboard castle. Odette counted out the basic steps for them and watched as they fumbled and stumbled over the other. Odette grimaced as Jacqueline stepped on Skyler’s toes, but he appeared to take it in stride, gesturing for her to stand on his feet as he lead them around the small room. She backed off into the archway, giving them as much space as possible to not only dance, but get to know the other.
“They’re doing it all wrong,” a voice whispered behind Odette.
She jumped and flung a hand to her chest before turning around. “Don’t creep up on me like that!”
Casimir chuckled and put his hands up innocently. “It’s a habit.”
Odette shook her head in disbelief as she turned to look back at Skyler and Jacqueline. “They’re good together, aren’t they?”
“Workers aren’t supposed to get involved with each other,” Casimir muttered. “I pay you to play the music, Johnston! Not dance to it!”
Jacqueline cowered as she heard Casimir’s booming voice, and Skyler immediately swept into a deep bow. “Master, I apologize.”
“W-we were…” Jacqueline stuttered.
“It was my fault,” Odette claimed, walking to stand between the two workers and Casimir. “I wanted to teach them how to dance.”
Casimir crossed his arms and walked up to Odette. “Next time you want to teach my employees, do it on their own time.”
Odette looked at the ground and sighed.
“Or do it right.”
She looked up to find Casimir in frame, waiting for her. Odette backed up a step and stumbled into Skyler, who patted her back.
“I’m actually quite tired,” Odette said, feigning a yawn. “Perhaps another day.”
“Come on,” Casimir said as she tried to slip out the door. He smiled mischievously and gestured her over with a gloved hand. “Don’t leave me hanging!”
“Maybe she doesn’t know how to dance,” Skyler offered.
“I do too know how to dance!” Odette said indignantly, storming back into the room and into Casimir’s arms. “Try to keep up, Your Highness.”